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Indiana not yet at full strength after departures

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana's basketball practices are getting lonely these days.

The three seniors who helped lead the Hoosiers out of their doldrums - Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford - have graduated. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are jetting around to audition for NBA teams. Remy Abell and Maurice Creek have transferred. Peter Jurkin and Austin Etherington are still recovering from injuries, Will Sheehey is on vacation and the new freshmen who are on campus are trying fit in.

Cook Hall has been so empty recently that the Hoosiers can't even go 5-on-5.

Eventually, things will change and when Indiana is back to full strength, coach Tom Crean will have his team ready to go.

``With the youth, with all this inexperience, you break down your teaching,'' Crean said. ``You realize it's your job to push that learning curve, to see how fast they pick things up.''

Crean will have plenty of opportunities to see how his young team responds.

The cornerstones will be Kevin ``Yogi'' Ferrell, who started 36 games last season as a freshman, and Sheehey, who has 19 career starts. Together, they combined to play 1,813 minutes last season. The rest of the returnees combined to play 555 minutes in 36 games.

It's not just quantity. The numbers show Indiana has lost 75 percent of its scoring, 68 percent of its rebounding and 77 percent of made 3-pointers from 2012-13 when the Hoosiers were ranked No. 1 longer than any team in the nation.

The detractors look at the stat sheet and an early-season schedule that includes dates with Notre Dame, Syracuse and a trip to New York for the 2K Sports Classic. And aside from Ferrell, last season's highly-touted freshmen class didn't provide much help.

That won't be the case this year.

``There's no question Yogi's been working, you can see it,'' Crean said. ``Hanner (Mosquera-Perea) is so far ahead of where he was a year ago. What that means right now, we don't know.''

And the Hoosiers will be buoyed by another top group of incoming freshmen. The list starts with forward Troy Williams, shooting guard Stanford Robinson, center Luke Fischer, two home-state players - Devin Davis and Colin Hartman - and ends with their top recruit, forward Noah Vonleh.

The 6-foot-9 Vonleh, who has been one of the few players around this month and some believe could be off to the NBA next spring, is already turning heads.

``I love his work ethic right now, and when you see him spread out on the court in 2-on-2, you can see where we can really make him better,'' Crean said. ``He is such a sponge for wanting to get better. You know we don't have enough guys to play 5-on-5, but once we get there he's going to be fun to see.''

If Etherington and Jurkin get healthy, they could help, too.

Plus, the Hoosiers have added 6-2 guard Evan Gordon, who graduated from Arizona State, transferred to Indiana and will be eligible immediately. Gordon is a familiar name in this basketball-loving state. His older brother, Eric, played one season at Indiana before leaving for the NBA and is now playing in New Orleans, and his younger brother, Eron, also is being recruited by Indiana.

Evan Gordon averaged 10.1 points in the Pac-12 last season, but Crean is more impressed with the things that don't show up in the stats.

``He's a winner, he's older and he is very comfortable in a lot of different situations,'' Crean said. ``I think he's a very underrated defender from watching him on tape. I do think when you have a guy like that, who makes his teammates better, I think that's a positive. He's got the bloodlines, and I think he wants to go into coaching some day and when you have someone that determined and that's passionate, that's a good thing to have.''

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2015
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

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